Taiwanese protest killing by Philippine forces

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Some 200 Taiwanese gathered outside the Philippines representative office in Taipei on Monday to protest the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippines coast guard in disputed waters.

Burning Philippines flags and waving banners with legends like "You can't kill our people, you can't insult our country," the demonstrators demanded that the Philippines apologize for Thursday's incident in the Bashi Strait, where Philippines coast guard personnel opened fire on a Taiwanese fishing vessel, killing 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng. The strait is between Taiwan and the northern Philippines.

With upward of 75 police officers in attendance, Monday's demonstration was peaceful.

President Ma Ying-jeou has given the Philippines until Tuesday to apologize for the incident and provide compensation to the dead man's family. If the Philippines refuses, Ma has said he will order Taiwanese representatives in Manila back to Taipei and deny Filipinos permission to work in Taiwan.

Approximately 87,000 Filipinos are employed on the island, many in the manufacturing sector, where their English-language skills are seen as a boon to the island's export-oriented high-tech industries.

The Philippines coast guard has admitted it fired the shots that killed the Taiwanese fisherman, but said it acted in self-defense because the Taiwanese vessel was about to ram it.

China has sought to make common cause with Taiwan against Manila, deploring the shooting in harsh rhetoric that threatened to spark another diplomatic tussle between Beijing and the Philippines, a key U.S. ally.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949 and Beijing continues to claim the democratic island as part of its territory. In recent months it has made repeated attempts to bring Taiwan onto its side in its maritime disputes with Japan and other countries in the region. Taiwan has so far resisted, reflecting its own claims of national sovereignty.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei reiterated China's condemnation of the Philippines coast guard action.

"The spokesmen for the Foreign Ministry and the Taiwan Affairs Office both expressed strong indignation about the Philippines' killing the fisherman last week," he said. "We urged the Philippines to investigate the case thoroughly and furnish the details."

In a related development, Chinese state media reported Monday that naval ships from the country's East Sea Fleet, which began training drills in the Western Pacific last week, are now planning to sail through the Bashi Strait on their return. The reports did not say when that would be.